The way our elected representatives in Congress tell it, courage is calling out the other side. When the Democratic President or other Democratic leaders support policies opposed by the GOP, Republicans say it is courageous to stand up against them. When the shoe is on the foot, Democrats say the same thing. The problem is that this really isn't courage at all -- it is partisanship. It is business as usual in the halls of politics.
Real courage is calling out those on your side when you believe they have gone astray. In the current Congress, real courage would be for Democratic representatives and senators to stand up against the wayward Obama administration and to do so without mincing words. (Likewise, it would have taken real courage for Republicans to call out President Bush.)
A Democratic leader standing up against the Obama administration would constitute genuine courage because there likely would be political repercussions. Behind closed doors, such a Democratic politician might be threatened with a loss of standing and access or blackmailed into supporting the President's policies. If these methods didn't work, the administration would try using the carrot instead of the whip. If you look the other way, we will provide the utmost support for one or more of your pet projects.
It typically takes real courage to go out on -- what might be -- a political limb. You may stand up with the idea that you are standing with others, only to discover the others have high-tailed it out of there and you are left standing all alone.
But that's what we need today. It's not enough to have the libertarian wing of the Republican Party opposing the growing police state in this country. Most people will view that as an example of run-of-the-mill partisanship. If, on the other hand, a few courageous Democrats stood up to say that the values of the Obama administration are not theirs and they will do everything within their power to rein in these overly broad surveillance programs -- President Obama's support for such, notwithstanding -- then we have a fighting chance of getting somewhere.
When I speak of real courage, please don't confuse that with the faux courage of someone like Sen. Ron Wyden (D - OR). Though he has spent the better part of the past 5 years warning that much was amiss with the implementation of various aspects of the Patriot Act, he hid behind the prohibition of being explicit. He says that the law prohibited him from telling what he knew -- ooh, the information is "classified" -- but that same law didn't stand in the way of Edward Snowden! Snowden showed real courage by consciously deciding to break the law to expose far more serious criminality.
Besides, if James Clapper, the Director of the NSA, can wantonly lie before Congress and not get in the slightest amount of hot water, do you really think the Capitol police would have arrested Sen. Wyden on the senate floor?